The Cardinals have missed the playoffs for the third year in a row. After yet another roller coaster season, the Redbirds missed the postseason by less than five games. It happened in 2016 and again in 2017, and now, it’s happened in 2018.
The Cards road to disappointment started last offseason. John Mozeliak and company talked a big game after the conclusion of the 2017 season, but they made little effort to back up all the talk.
People surrounding the team through that last offseason would be the one that put the Redbirds back in the conversation to win the Central. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t. After a very lackluster season, it looked and sounded like the Cardinals were poised to have major roster turnover and to go get a big name or two to solidify the roster. In reality, they made several small moves, offloading guys like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz, but that was about it. The front office didn’t make any moves, other than to the coaching staff, to really improve the team from the previous season and it cost them another trip to the postseason.
Getting Marcell Ozuna
The two biggest moves of the offseason were somewhat expected and neither was overly impressive. The first was the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna was brought in to bat clean up, in hopes that he would reproduce his 2017 season. It was somewhat unwarranted to think that though. The front office chose to completely ignore his career averages and instead bank on him to hit 35+ homers and drive in 100+ runs again. He ended the season much closer to his career averages though, which should have been expected.
Getting Ozuna came of course after failing to land Giancarlo Stanton, who suited the Redbirds needs much better than Marcell. This is not to say obtaining Ozuna was the wrong move, but making that the only move was. Even if he had hit like they thought, they still would’ve been one power bat short of a complete lineup. As it turned out, Matt Carpenter was that other power bat, but, Ozuna was what the Card should have expected, not what they hoped he would be.
The Greg Holland Fiasco
The second big move of the offseason came near its end and was the signing of Greg Holland. Mo and Girsch decided to pass on other relievers like Addison Reed, Wade Davis and Brandon Morrow and to not trade for a closer, they signed Holland for $14 million in March. They also had to give up their 2019 second-round draft pick, because Holland was a qualified free agent.
It seemed like a desperation move at the time, and looking back, it probably was. However, no one predicted it would be so costly. Holland was horrible with the Cards, posting a 7.92 ERA with them in over 25 innings and giving up as many walks, 22, as he had strikeouts. St. Louis couldn’t trade him, because they gave him too much money, so they had to release him and eat the remainder of his contract.
The Cardinals did make one big move this season and that was the firing of manager Mike Matheny. Hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller were also canned. Unfortunately, this didn’t have as good of an impact as the front office had hoped.
Under Matheny this season, the Cards went 47-46 and the day of his firing they trailed the Cubs for first place by 7.5 games. Obviously, things were bad and Matheny needed to go, but, things didn’t improve enough after Mike Shildt took over either. They got better, just not enough better.
The Trade Deadline
After the Cards decided not to go all out, or even part of the way out, in the offseason, it was no surprise that they were quiet at the trade deadline.
They made a few small moves, but none to really benefit the team. Some outfield depth was traded in the form of Tommy Pham and Oscar Mercado, but the return was little to nothing for both. The only other notable moves were the trades of Sam Tuivailala and Luke Voit, who both played better after their departure. Despite having good pieces to move like Jose Martinez, Bud Norris and Luke Weaver, they decided to stand pat, again.
St. Louis had an amazing month of August with Shildt at the helm. He had just been named the interim manager and he had the team playing really well. However, other changes occurred around the same time that he took over, that were more impactful. Mozeliak finally decided to bring up his young arms and let them rule in the bullpen, Harrison Bader stepped into centerfield and Matt Carpenter put himself in the conversation for NL MVP, which was fun while it lasted.
The Cardinals went 22-6 for the calendar month. They played themselves back into postseason contention and even had an outside chance at the division. September was a different story though. Despite all they accomplished in August, they’re still sitting out October for the third year in a row.
It would be nice to say with some confidence that this offseason would be a big one for the Cardinals. After all, they did just miss the playoffs for the third straight season and the roster is clearly lacking. Unfortunately, though, the roster was obviously flawed after the last two seasons as well and no big changes were made.
There are going to be some big names hitting the free agent market this offseason. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson, just to name a few. They would even fit the Cards’ needs nicely. Why should fans expect anything to change this offseason though? The Cardinals are still going to see three million-plus fans next season and they’re still going to be one of the most profitable teams in baseball, even if they don’t make a big move this offseason. Mozeliak’s job isn’t on the line, neither is anyone else’s in the front office.
Something needs to change with this team. Not just for the sake of change, but for the sake of being a better, well-rounded ball club that competes for championships. Somewhere along the line, the bar has been lowered for the Cardinals’ expectations from World Series contenders, to second place Wild Card contenders. It’s been hard to watch over the past three seasons, and it’s hard to expect anything to change, but the ball is in their court. The front office can decide now that this isn’t acceptable, or that their happy to just sit back an collect their checks.
Featured Image by David Carson of the Post Dispatch
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